Anxiety sounds like such a mild word for something that wreaks such havoc on our emotional, spiritual and physical health. It has become such a common term to say “I am having an anxiety attack” or “I am stressed out of my mind”. When our friends or family say how stressed they are it is almost like someone saying I am tired today. We rarely react. As a matter of fact, we may actual compete. “No kidding, you should see what is going on in my world!”
Reality is that stress and anxiety are crippling us. It affects the decisions we make or can’t make. Our relationships become strained because we are either not fully present or unconsciously dumping our stress on our loved ones. We become so preoccupied rewinding the script in our mind about our key stressor or the string of unrelenting worries that we forget to pray or we feel that we don’t have time even for prayer or our relationship with God.
For the most part we all live with the day to day stress and we cope with the headaches, lack of concentration and edginess. However, I think many times the anxiety swells, almost like a wave that is building, and we feel a sense of panic that this wave is going to bury us under a pounding sea of water. Will we surface this time? There are books and books written about anxiety, so here I just want to share one thing I have found personally that helps me keep things in perspective when the WAVE starts to build.
I had an experience once when I had left my job to go back to graduate school. I was worried that my boss, who I greatly admired, was really mad at me and that this relationship was forever severed. I was sitting in my house with the piles of bills and I had just eliminated a significant portion of our household income by leaving my job. We had sold our home and we only had 30 or 45 days to find a new place to live. The kids were unhappy because they didn’t want to move. And all of this was my fault because I had some crazy idea that I was being called by God to become a counselor.
The wave was coming in the form of my chest beginning to feel tight, my mind racing, and I believe a panic attack just around the corner. But this time I stopped and did a couple of things:
- I sat down and wrote in my journal to God for help. By writing instead of just praying to myself or even out loud I was better able to control the racing thoughts.
- Even before becoming a counselor, I asked myself (in the journaling) what was different. Okay there was a lot of change happening but this was not Day 1 of the decision. Why today was the tidal wave coming??
- I couldn’t think of anything that was different except my reaction or my emotional state.
- So I prayed to the Lord to take away my worry and to help me to carry the longer term burden of my life decisions. I specifically prayed that when I stopped journaling these prayers that I be able to stop the anxiety and obsessing and enjoy the peace of trusting in Him.
So I put down my journal and took my dogs for a walk. On the walk I was able to enjoy the beautiful day and look around at all God has created. I was able to reflect on all He has provided and if I stepped out in faith to become a Christian counselor He would still provide.
When I returned home I felt amazingly better. But God so loves us that He went a step further. The phone rang and it was my Boss. She was talking to me as if nothing had changed. There was no sign of animosity or distance. In less than 2 hours of my obsessing, God answered my prayers and removed that worry.
The point here is that we will have times when anxiety and stress are heightened even if there is no change in the situation or in our lives. It may be hormones, it may be when we have some down time, or someone could say something that triggers it. We can learn to better control this generalized anxiety by stopping in the moment and getting the fear and worry out of us. Whether it is just journaling, whether it is talking it through in a logical perspective with someone we trust, and my preference, whether we bring it God and let Him help us with our burden; we can calm the rough seas and keep our heads above water!